4 March 2022

International award for Sheffield scientist who has dedicated his career to pioneering kidney research

An academic from the University of Sheffield has been recognised with a prestigious international award for the outstanding contribution he has made to kidney disease research.

Doctor showing a model of a kidney
Kidney research

Professor Albert Ong from the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, has been awarded the 2022 Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize for Advancement in the Understanding of Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).

Considered to be the highest honour in the field, the prize from the PKD Foundation is awarded to members of the global scientific and medical community who have helped to accelerate research to bring better diagnosis and treatments for the chronic disease which affects around 70,000 adults and children in the UK.

Polycystic Kidney disease is the name for a range of potentially life-threatening inherited disorders that can cause kidney failure and damage to other organs. Faulty genes cause fluid-filled cysts to develop and grow in the kidneys. This can happen at any point during childhood or adulthood.       

Professor Ong was born in Malaysia and graduated from the University of Oxford with a degrees in physiological sciences, clinical medicine and a doctorate in renal cell biology. Following a lectureship at University College London, he was awarded a Kidney Research UK Senior Research Fellowship in genetics at the Harris Lab Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford where he began working on the genetics and cell biology of Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD).

He joined the University of Sheffield over 20 years ago and established a new research programme in ADPKD supported initially by a Wellcome Trust Research Leave Award.

Now Professor of Renal Medicine and Consultant Nephrologist at the Sheffield Kidney Institute, the major aim of Professor Ong’s laboratory over the past two decades has been to investigate the molecular basis of cyst formation, in particular the functions of the ADPKD proteins - polycystine-1, and polycystin-2. The focus of clinical and translational research has been to identify genetic and non-genetic factors influencing variability in disease expression, test novel treatments and introduce innovations to improve patient care.

I feel really honoured and humbled to receive this award - particularly because I was nominated by my friends, peers and also competitors.

Professor Albert Ong

Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease 

“It feels really special to be recognised for my work - 27 years in total and 22 years in Sheffield. In the last few years it has been great to see some real progress in the way we can treat patients with PKD - both revolutionary drugs and also with better personalised care. 

“Sheffield is a special place for translational research, our pioneering work and successful collaborations and partnerships enable us to translate fundamental science into new treatments for patients. I’m also really proud of the opportunities we are able to offer our students.”  

The award is shared with Dr Alessandra Boletta from the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan.

President and CEO of the PKD Foundation, Andy Betts, said: “It’s my distinct pleasure to present Dr. Boletta and Dr. Ong with this momentous award.

“Their work in studying ADPKD provides PKD patients worldwide with hope for new therapeutic treatments.”

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.